Retreat for Board Chairs and Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities

November 9-10, 2020
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The vital relationship between board chairs and presidents is being tested now as never before. They must work together as profoundly effective partner-leaders as they guide their independent colleges or universities through the after-effects of the pandemic.

This year’s Retreat will focus on immediate, real-time issues related to reopening and reinventing the educational experience at individual institutions in the wake of COVID-19. But those issues cannot be considered in isolation. We will address them within the context of the complex challenges institutions were already facing.

Attending the Retreat will help board chairs and presidents bolster their working relationships in two strategic ways. Through expert facilitation, it will enable them to engage in productive, undistracted discussions. It will also give them opportunities to discover how their peers at other institutions are solving congruent challenges.

We Will Address These Immediate Challenges

  • Recovering from impacts on endowments and fundraising
  • Making painful budget decisions fairly and strategically
  • Developing plans to safely reopen campuses and facilities across geographical areas where COVID-related impacts and regulations may vary widely
  • Determining the full cost of reopening while mitigating health risks
  • Addressing fears about returning among students, faculty, and staff
  • Complying with changing and conflicting guidance and regulations
  • Navigating liability when there is no legal or scientific definition of
    what constitutes a “safe” environment for students, faculty, and staff

…Against the Backdrop of These Longer-Term Issues:

  • Questions about the value of degree relative to the cost of tuition
  • Declining enrollments and increasing drop-out rates
  • Uncertain finances, revenues, and business models
  • Direct competition across a widening spectrum of higher educational options
  • Indirect competition from alternatives to higher education
  • Concerns about racism and social justice

Six Key Reasons to Attend:

Stop, step away, and with expert guidance, devote your full, undivided attention to:

  1. Gaining perspective on the challenges facing institutions and their leaders.
  2. Assessing your specific challenges, agreeing on priorities, developing strategic alignment, and mapping your way forward.
  3. Getting on the same page with a detailed understanding of how your partner(s) in leadership are thinking.
  4. Developing the operational aspects of your relationship by setting mutual expectations, building trust, and improving communications.
  5. Capturing your consensus, areas for further consideration, and action items in a planning document you can immediately begin to implement at your institution.
  6. Learning how your peers at other institutions have applied best practices for working together and navigating challenges.

Each retreat is facilitated by the recognized authority with 100 years of experience in strengthening board governance and enhancing partnership between board chairs and presidents as institutional leaders.


  • The retreat is hosted on a powerful, virtual-event platform and conducted as an immersive, fully interactive small-group conference.
  • Sessions are for AGB members only and limited in size so that you will receive the full attention of our faculty.
  • The online environment is purposefully designed to facilitate focused learning and action planning.
  • Interactive, facilitated sessions convey best practices, innovations in governance, and examples of successful strategies from other institutions.
  • Meetings among your own team and one-on-one consultations are interspersed throughout the program so that you’ll have time to think through and apply what you’ve learned to your specific challenges.


At the Retreat, board chairs and presidents will reinforce their working relationships, develop mutual expectations, and identify concrete actions for addressing their challenges.

Event Resources


Tuesday, October 20, 2020
1:00 pm EST Welcome, Setting the Stage
1:10 pm EST Key Challenges Facing Public Institutions and Leaders
2:15 pm EST Break
2:30 pm EST Framing Out an Action Agenda, Looking Ahead
3:00 pm EST Maintaining Effective Board and Campus Communication
3:30 pm EST Leveraging the Board Chair and President Relationship/Next Steps
4:00 pm EST Session Concludes

Post session opportunities to meet individually with facilitators (team and facilitator) upon request.


Thomas Flynn

Dr. Flynn is an AGB Senior Fellow and president emeritus of Alvernia University (PA), having served from 2005 to 2019. At Alvernia, he oversaw the development of strategic and campus master plans and the achievement of university status. Also completed were a comprehensive fundraising campaign and a successful effort to build a Recreation, Wellness, and Health Sciences Complex (named by the Board of Trustees for the Flynns). The O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Public Service; the Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement; and the widely acclaimed Reading Collegiate Scholars Program for inner-city underrepresented youth were also established and partially endowed. Previously, Dr. Flynn served as Senior Advisor for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and as Provost and President at Millikin University (IL). He spent fourteen years on the faculty of Mount Saint Mary’s College (MD), where he was Professor of English and served as Dean of the College.

An undergraduate at Boston College, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. He has completed professional development programs at Harvard University and received awards for his teaching, academic leadership, and community engagement, besides service on the boards of several higher education associations.

Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran

Dr. Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, President Emerita of Kalamazoo College, retired in 2016 after serving a President for eleven years. Her previous positions include vice president and dean of the college at Salem College (North Carolina) as well as faculty and administrative positions at Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina Wesleyan College, and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. During her tenure at Kalamazoo, she led the most successful fundraising campaign in the college’s history to support scholarships, endowed professorships, capital projects, and the creation of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Under her leadership, the institution heightened trustee and alumni engagement, revised the curriculum, and made considerable strides toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus. Dr. Wilson-Oyelaran serves on the Board of Trustees of United States International University Africa (Nairobi, Kenya) and Salem Academy and College along with her alma mater, Pomona College. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work in higher education, diversity, and inclusion, including the Gender Equity Architect Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Star Award from the Posse Foundation, and an American Council of Education Fellowship.

Registration & Refund Policy

Registration Fee – $995: The registration fee includes program expenses for both the board chair and the president as well as program materials and a consultation with the facilitator after the retreat.

A vice chair can be added to the team for an additional $495.

Cancellation Policy

All cancellations and requests for refunds must be submitted in writing to AGB will issue a full refund if written notification of cancellation is provided to AGB by October 6, 2020. No refunds will be issued for attendees who cancel after this date.  AGB will issue refunds after the meeting.

Institute Application

To see a list of member institutions, see the Member List.

Board Chair Information

President's Information

Institute Contact

Please include information for person filling out the form if not the institution's board chair or president.

Payment and Refund Policies

Please select your preferred payment method. Upon review and acceptance of your application, you will be contacted by the AGB Registrar to complete your payment.

Requests for refunds must be submitted in writing to Cancellations received on or before October 6, 2020 are entitled to a full refund. No refunds will be granted for cancellations after these dates.